There are forms of political skullduggery, which are imperative know-how in Politics 101. Young starry-eyed neophytes in politics are acquainted with the what, when, and hows of discreetly carrying out a political equivalent of a strike. And like any strike, these manoeuvres have to incorporate new styles and steps from their more known international counterparts. Disinformation is the latest.
The disinformation phenomenon came to the fore of news desks in late 2016, as the world got over the initial shock of a Trump Presidency (the shock to news organisations was more of a scabbed wound as their predictions fell to the floor) and news broke of an obscure Russian disinformation campaign. Disinformation, as defined by a former KGB operative, is the deliberate distortion of information to leak to a potential target sample done by establishments, newspapers, and even social media.
If one were to disintegrate the components of a typical disinformation news piece they would be; eye-catching, false, and a total yet cleverly designed lie. If this article were to be another massive disinformation campaign by yours truly, you wouldn’t be able to identify it.
Disinformation is in fact, more local in its inception. In the 1980s, inside the pages of a small Indian publication called The Patriot was an article warning India of an AIDS epidemic. The Epidemic was the perfect conjured story with the seasonings as small, virtually unnoticeable, and almost believable. It was repeated in a prominent Russian magazine after years, and for the final guise of acceptability, they printed the source in bold words; The Patriot.
For additional verifiability, they even got a scientist to validate it, and hence the first discovered disinformation campaign was unearthed. The AIDS story was twisted and turned and made viral when it finally ended up in its intended recipients’ hands when it made primetime news in the States of how AIDS leaked from an American laboratory.
Now, the Indian Government seems to be following the footsteps of its ally and embarking upon a campaign of its own vis a vis the BJP’s newfound political toy, social media.
The BJP IT cell claims to be an official wing of the BJP; however, it is what it does.
The IT cell under Bora worked to increase daily viewership of its page and even helped organise the veteran BJP leader, LK Advani’s rallies, massively increasing their popularity. The then Bora headed organisation still can be said to be a mere shadow of what it is today.
A particular trick that struck me was that of its reliance on the “once the damage is done” way, it posts an inanely made up tweet, cites its regional sources and, then deletes it.
The tweets are often communal and ensure that the most oblivious and uneducated of the BJPs voters remain hooked. Most of the tweets come from Amit Malviya, head of the IT cell (and with 555K followers). What follows is the foundation of the BJPs ideological pervasiveness. Senior BJP leaders cite Malviya’s tweets and then a trickle-down effect, BJP style occurs, where thousands of bhakts and their functionaries use the tweets and create a factoid bubble for the BJP voter base. This method’s simplicity lies in its obviousness and yet its results render it diabolically cunning.
— Amit Malviya (@amitmalviya) November 28, 2020
The Delhi Farmer Protests of 2020 against the 3 new Farm laws passed in Parliament are unlike any other protest, for they are the product of collective unrest by farmers across the country. The farmers are adamant, well organised, and well-stocked to continue the protest. The NDA Government has mostly given empty assurances and held inconclusive talks.
The Prime Minister even gave a televised speech to assumedly assure the farmers, in his usual format of speechmaking which involves a weird form of beating around the bush and failing to lay a clear path ahead all while deriding the Opposition, delivered in a deep baritone of self-proclaimed magnanimity, reminiscent of Donald Trump.
What we fail to realize is that the BJP has been hard at work all along. With such a protest of such scale, the IT cell saw it as a ripe target for launching an all-out attack on these protests, they left no stone or allegation unturned; from making baseless claims about their origins to doubting the food served in the protest. The IT cell has done it all, and there lies the underhand contribution of the BJP.
When reports surfaced of a farmer being hit by police batons, it seemed that Malviya was waiting at the wings as he hurriedly tweeted a video that seemed to show the opposite. That tweet was later flagged as manipulated media by Twitter but the BJP had achieved what it set out to achieve, the damage had again been done.